FGS teaching award recipients reflect on changes in graduate education

The 2020 recipients of the Faculty of Graduate Studies’ (FGS) Faculty Teaching Awards are Associate Professors Michael Zryd and Michaela Hynie.

The award is bestowed annually on members of the Faculty who display substantial, significant and sustained excellence, commitment and enthusiasm to the multifaceted aspects of teaching at the graduate level at York University.

“It was a complete surprise and I’m very grateful to the students who nominated me,” Zryd said. “They were very sneaky. I didn’t know about it at all until someone needed to do a fact-check on my CV.”

“It was amazing,” said Hynie. “Having your students nominate you for an award is really moving. It’s an enormous amount of work for them.”

Michael Zyrd

Michael Zryd

Zryd, who teaches in graduate programs in Communication & Culture, Film and Humanities, joined York’s faculty in 2003 after teaching at Western University.

“York has the oldest and largest film department in Canada, and Toronto is such a great base for film culture," he said. "York was the place to come to when an opportunity presented itself.”

In the 17 years since, Zryd feels that both York and Toronto’s avant-garde film landscape have improved for the better, and both for the same reasons. “You have people from all over the world making films, and experimental film has always been interested in counterculture and the marginal elements of culture," he explained.

"LGBTQ approaches, questions of class and inequity – these are hovering around the margins even as these filmmakers are trying to express the textures of our reality through new perspectives and new film forms. All of that is incredibly exciting.

“Graduate education has also improved, partly through some of the same factors,” Zryd continued. “The diversity of students has increased, people come from different backgrounds and graduate education has had to adjust to that. Now graduate education is more diverse.”

Zryd is currently working on a book project that seeks to envision the uncompleted final film of filmmaker Hollis Frampton.

Michaela Hynie

Michaela Hynie

Hynie, who teaches in graduate programs in Kinesiology & Health Science, Development Studies, Environmental Studies and Psychology, joined York in 1997, and has also observed an evolution in her work.

“When I first came to York I was doing fairly traditional social psychology,” Hynie recalled, noting that teaching early on in the Atkinson Centre for Mature and Part-time Students informed the rest of her career.

“They (students) came to their education with a different perspective," Hynie explained. "I think that probably helped me think about the importance of the application of the research, and probably pushed me in a direction I had been attracted to thinking about how the work I did as a researcher could have practical, real-world implications in the immediate term."

Since then, her research has focused on a range of important issues related to newcomers’ access to care, the reintegration of prisoners into society, access to health care for hospital patients without health insurance and the well-being of nail salon workers.

In her work, Hynie has sought collaboration with community partners, policymakers and activists to foster real-world change. She is currently active with York University's Centre for Refugee Studies, for which she has high praise.

“It’s very interdisciplinary," Hynie said. "It has really helped me strengthen my understanding of the other social sciences and humanities, and also of global issues in migration, Hynie said. "It’s hard to overestimate how educational, inspirational and challenging in a good way this space is."

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